Chapter One: Calculation
Sun Tzu said:
Warfare is a great matter to a nation;
it is the ground of death and of life;
it is the way of survival and of destruction, and must be examined.
Conflict is important. It can make or break you. You must actively face the conflict and proactively seek to understand it fully.
Therefore, go through it by means of five factors;
compare them by means of calculation, and determine their statuses:
One, Way, two, Heaven, three, Ground, four, General, five, Law.
The Way is what causes the people to have the same thinking as their superiors;
they may be given death, or they may be given life, but there is no fear of danger and betrayal.
The Way (or Tao) represents moral purpose. The strength of purpose in a group defines the tightness of the union. A person with a strong passion has a much higher potential.
The betrayal does not refer to the people betraying their leaders, but rather the leader betraying his/her people by not acting in the best group interest.
Heaven is dark and light, cold and hot, and the seasonal constraints.
Heaven represents the social atmosphere. The moods and attitudes of those around you can impede what you want, much like the weather on a soldier’s motility. While you cannot predict the weather with absolute certainty, you can anticipate the repeating fluctuations of persons and respond appropriately.
Ground is high and low, far and near, obstructed and easy, wide and narrow, and dangerous and safe.
The ground represents factors that have been set concrete: written and unwritten law, social norms/customs. While you are not able to successfully manipulate law and culture as you see fit, it very well influences how you’d take on the conflict.
This factor was important enough that Sun Tzu devoted two entire chapters to Ground (Ch10 Ground Formation and Ch11 Nine Grounds). In them, he not only warns the reader about the perils of each type of “landscape” but also of what they offer.
General is wisdom, credibility, benevolence, courage, and discipline.
Listed out is the five attributes of an effective leader. If you want the full support and commitment of everyone, you must have wisdom, credibility, benevolence, courage, and discipline.
Wisdom is your good judgment.
Credibility is your good reputation.
Benevolence is your good intent.
Courage is your good fortitude.
Discipline is your good reliability.
Sun Tzu was a morale person and he stressed that one can only succeed if their actions are motived by these virtues.
Law is organization, the chain of command, logistics, and the control of expenses.
The fifth of the five factors is Law, which represents management of strength. In any organization, there must be standards (to regulate policy, work, division of profits, etc). More of this will be covered in chapter 2: Doing Battle.
All these five no general has not heard;
one who knows them is victorious, one who does not know them is not victorious.
Everyone has heard of the five factors, but some choose to ignore them. Had they not ignored the factors, they could have avoided hardships. In order combat conflict, one must examine, understand, and apply the five factors.
Therefore, compare them by means of calculation, and determine their statuses.
Which ruler has the Way,
which general has the ability,
which has gained Heaven and Ground,
which carried out Law and commands,
which army is strong,
which officers and soldiers are trained,
which reward and punish clearly,
by means of these, I know victory and defeat!
Before taking actions to combat conflict, one must assess the five factors of the situation. You must ask yourself with complete honesty and impartiality when determining the strengths of your and your adversary's forces. This may bruise your ego, but it is better to know that you have a weakness than to remain weak and unaware. Awknowledge of weakness is the first step of progress.
After meditating on the five factors, you must devise a strategy (an overall plan to reach victory) and supporting tactics (individual actions that supplements your strategy). Victory is acquired when you quickly terminate conflicts and regain harmony. While your "war" may be filled with intense emotions, your plan is based on logic and organization; you can anticipate the endgame even before you take your first action.
A general who listens to my calculations, and uses them, will surely be victorious, keep him;
a general who does not listen to my calculations, and does not use them, will surely be defeated, remove him.
A little bit of history here. Sun Tzu was alive during the late Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE) and the Warring States period (475-221 BCE), periods in which Chinese military advisors were hired and fired based on how their individual results. The meritocracy effectively gave rise to the best minds, whose sole job was to find ways to end warfare and resolve conflicts.
Calculate advantages by means of what was heard, then create force in order to assist outside missions.
Force is the control of the balance of power, in accordance with advantages.
Superiority in the five catagories ensures victory, but there are unexpected circumstances that might arise to foil your position. However, having force (overwhelming momentum) helps push through setbacks. It may redefine the "battle" and birth new advantages and weaknesses. Force is discussed in detail in chapter 5.
Warfare is the Way of deception.
The idea of deception here is covered in chapter 6. Deception allows "formlessness" which effectively thwarts attacks.
Therefore, if able, appear unable,
if active, appear not active,
if near, appear far,
if far, appear near.
Do not give the opposition anything that can be used against you. Control the situation by controlling what the opposition perceives. Psychological warfare is important; indirectly combating the adversary may confuse/overwhelm them, opening up a chance to strike.
If they have advantage, entice them;
if they are confused, take them,
if they are substantial, prepare for them,
if they are strong, avoid them,
if they are angry, disturb them,
if they are humble, make them haughty,
if they are relaxed, toil them,
if they are united, separate them.
To win a "battle," you need an advantage, perhaps a few advantages. Advantage is not absolute in time and space and therefore, initiative to create your own "luck" is vital. Advantage is when one's strength opposed by the opponent's weakness is enough to grasp victory.
While your opponent might be stronger, victory can be achieved by creating opportunities where they'd least expect it. In order for this to happen, you must cause them to produce errors in their calculation. Permit them to emotionally respond. Irk them when they are calm. Poke holes in their sanity and constitution.
Attack where they are not prepared, go out to where they do not expect.
The duality that is found in Sun Tzu's words can be and should be taken literally... but not in every case or every situation.
The dynamic application of this convention of strategy must be executed with discretion because it depends in part on the mission objectives.
This specialized warfare leads to victory, and may not be transmitted beforehand.
Deception depends heavily on formlessness and the element of surprise. Projecting your actions may give the opponent enough time to enact a countermeasure.
Before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will win, because many calculations were made;
before doing battle, in the temple one calculates and will not win, because few calculations were made;
I'd like to add a bit more to Sun Tzu's words.
Numbers involve rates (food consumed per day), absolutes (size of the army), as well as probabilities (% chance of ambush if army travels through forest).
Scenarios are what if assessments. An example would be "what if the war doesn't end in X months?"
A thorough planning leads to understanding, consensus, and knowledge of risk and reward before the route of action has been taken.
many calculations, victory, few calculations, no victory, then how much less so when no calculations?
By means of these, I can observe them, beholding victory or defeat!
While it is obvious, I'd like to point out that calculations, like anything else, are time-bound and subject to mistakes. Therefore, while it is important to make many calculations, it is imperative to also make correct calculations. Quality and quantity should not be diluted.
Also, calculations, and the need for more of them, should not paralyze action.